Is that bowl of cereal such a healthy option?

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The UK consumer magazine ' Which? ' says some breakfast cereals contain as much sugar or salt as a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps, while others contain almost the same amount of fat as a thick pork sausage, and a McDonald's McBacon Roll.

The magazine's survey of 275 breakfast cereals found that more than three-quarters had high levels of sugar, a fifth had high levels of salt, while seven per cent were high in saturated fat.

Contents of cereals from a range of shops and manufacturers were compared with the amounts of sugar, salt and fat advocated by the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) proposed 'traffic light' labelling scheme.

The report used the red, amber and green colour coding from the labelling criteria to show whether levels of salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat per 100g are high, medium or low.

It was found that 88 per cent of the cereals targeted at children were high in sugar, while 13 per cent were high in salt and 10 per cent were high in saturated fat.

Some "healthy" breakfast cereals were found to contain more fat per bowl than two fried eggs or a bacon sandwich and other cereals considered to be lighter options by shoppers contain as much sugar or salt as a chocolate bar or packet of crisps, says Which?

Of those cereals scoring a red for sugar, both Asda and Morrison's Golden Puffs were rated the worst offenders and contained the highest amount of sugar at 55g per 100g.

A fifth of cereals tested were high in salt and Kellogg's All Bran and Morrison's Right Balance had the highest amounts.

Nine children's cereals contained more than four teaspoons of sugar per suggested portion and only 13 per cent scored a green traffic light for sugar.

The three worst offenders overall were Quaker Oatso Simple Kids (any flavour), Kellogg's Coco Pops Straws and Mornflake Pecan and Maple Crisp.

All of these are high in sugar and saturated fat; Kellogg's Coco Pop Straws contain the same amount of sugar as a two-finger Kit Kat (34g per 100g).

Sue Davies, the chief policy adviser at Which? says though manufacturers have made some efforts to reduce the salt levels in their breakfast cereals, many products still have high levels of salt as well as high levels of sugar and despite their healthy claims, some cereals also have high levels of fat and saturated fats.

Which is calling for more responsible marketing and for manufacturers to further reduce sugar and salt levels, and fats, and remove all unnecessary trans fats from their products.

Which is also asking manufacturers to adopt the FSA's traffic light labelling system so that people can identify cereals high in fat, salt and sugar at a glance.

However, some have already snubbed the FSA system and created their own versions.

According to the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers breakfast cereals contributed a 'nutritionally insignificant' amount of fat to the average diet, while salt levels had fallen in cereals by a third between 1998 and 2005.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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